“Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.'” ~Luke 10:8-11
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” ~2 Corinthians 2:14-17
The scent of Christ surrounding his disciples is the aroma of the kingdom of God. Some do not receive it. It is a stench to them, as obedience to the word of God is both convicting and enlightening. They hate the light and do not come to it, choosing rather to flee into deeper darkness — and to death. Others, though, do receive it and are healed by it, drawn to the light by its odor of life, freedom, and love.
In everything that we do, as we are Christians, we are to do it in the name of Christ, our Lord and Head, based upon his satisfaction as the fragrant aroma of the propitiatory sacrifice before the Father. When we live in such a way, we bear the scent of the triumphant King wherever we go — and we will thus be as incense in the world, bearing witness to his presence — an aroma which some hate and others come to love.
Our very bodies demonstrate the truth of the vivid imagery of this word-picture describing the total life or death nature of the kingdom of God. For some people love the way one thing smells, while others detest the same. Not only that, people’s likings can and do change.
An example of this from my own life has to do with the cheap, “chemical fragrances” that Westerners live and breathe in unavoidable superabundance. Once upon a time, I loved the way these things smelled — until I wasn’t exposed to them for a while, instead breathing in primarily natural odors and essential oils. At first, these seemed rather flat and bland to me, until one day I realized that there was a beautiful complexity and loveliness to them that I had previously been simply unable to discern. And then I began to notice that the synthetic chemical fragrances all smelled alike to me — and that they caught at my throat rather unpleasantly. I wondered why I had ever taken such delight in them! I no longer could sense, with any detail, the variation between one and another, much less enjoy them — even while my ability to distinguish variations in smell in general has continued to improve the longer I have reduced my exposure to the man-made synthetic fragrances. It was as if my ability to smell had generally been altered and actually reduced by the constant presence of the chemical fragrances.
Such a transformation of our tastes and likings and desires takes place spiritually in our lives as we grow more and more sanctified. And the more sanctified we become, the more richly the perfume of Christ will surround us, so that, as we move through life, others will know that the kingdom of God has been near to them.
One exceedingly practical way in which this is seen is in the way we speak and in the attitudes with which we carry ourselves towards others:
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” ~Ephesians 4:15-16
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled on one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” ~Galatians 5:13-15
Such a love results from the fact that, by the grace of God, we have come to know God and love his law:
“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge…We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” ~1 John 2:20; 4:6
As obedient subjects of the Lord of Lords, as beloved children of the living God, we, as believers, give forth the aroma of the King because he has put his Spirit in us, healed us, and given us life — a life which is the smell of death to those twisted hearts who, loving only themselves, hate Him, for it is the foreboding of their own everlasting death.
[With indebtedness to Pastor Tim Price’s sermon of March 1, 2015]